Elizabeth Grey is a north-eastern English writer who was born in Sunderland and now lives in South Tyneside. Following a five year university education combining her love of art and business, she entered the corporate world as a marketing assistant before moving into operations management.
Marrying Chris in 2007, Elizabeth now has three young children and divides her time between writing, parenting and travelling to as many different countries as the school holidays will allow.
Follow her on Instagram, where you’ll see lots of lovely booksy and holiday photos like those above.
Follow her on Facebook, where she’s usually found begging for book reviews. Shamefully begging. Not at all sorry.
Follow her on Twitter at your peril. It’s not uncommon for things to escalate. Rapidly. She is very sorry about this, however.
An interview about my writing:
1. When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written dribbles and drabbles – ever since I was a kid. Just last week tidying out the spare room I found an entire TV show I’d created when I was a teenager, with 18 episodes all typed up. I was so happy in my own little world back then, but I didn’t think about becoming a writer until much later. I actually started writing children’s books about 15 years ago, but that morphed into chick-lit / romance when I read an interview with the creator of a TV show who said he pretty much wrote rubbish until he decided to let his own life inspire him. I thought “hey, I should do that.” So, up popped Violet and the Agency universe, which is based loosely on the first marketing job I had 20 years ago. Originally, it was going to be a tech business (I marketed for a global telecoms company), but I switched to an advertising agency because it gave more scope to bring in interesting clients and send the characters on fun location shoots.
2. How long does it take to write a book?
Just Friends took a couple of years to write and perfect, It’s Complicated took five months, Freja took three months and Second Chance took (sadly) nine months, but that was hindered by a spot of personal life drama which took me out of writing for a couple of months in the middle. I’ve actually been fortunate to be able to use that down time as research for Violet’s prequel story which I’ll be starting to write in the new year. More on that later, but the phrase “poundshop mean girls” is getting copyrighted, lol! Forever You will have taken just over three months, but it is a shorter novel.
3. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Literally all over the place. Some days I write 5000 words, others 50. I’m easily distracted by the world (and, um, social media). And I’m far more productive between the hours of 11pm and 2am, than I am in the morning. I also edit as I write, which is unusual, so instead of having a completed first draft before returning to the beginning and writing a second, each chapter gets about five drafts/edits before I move onto writing the next chapter. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad way of witing, but it’s how I do it.
4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have numerous excel spreadsheets containing every possible fact about every character I ever mention. This works a treat for continuity (and my editor loves it because she doesn’t have to check out my accuracy). I have all my main characters histories incl. ever job they’ve ever had, their nearest tube station, their Google map real-life address and how many minutes it takes them to get to work. My spreadsheets are very useful for intro-ing new characters. e.g. a couple of books ago I mentioned Freja’s best childhood friend was called Agnes – so Agnes will be appearing in Forever You; In past books I mentioned Violet’s work friend in New York was called Alison Winter – we’ll be meeting Alison in Violet. So many characters have appeared after they’ve been name-dropped briefly and randomly in earlier books.
5. How do your books get published?
I publish my books independently. As an indie-author I retain 70% of the money from every book I sell, whereas traditionally published authors retain an average of 7-8%. The flip side of this is I could theoretically sell more books with a traditional publisher, but I guess I’ll never know. Independent publishing is also much faster. Traditional publishers can take one, even two years, to publish a completed book. I can have my books up and selling in less than 24 hours. I wrote my short story Always You in four days and it was available to buy in under a week. As I’ve been self-employed most of my life prior to being a writer, I’m also used to having full autonomy over what I do. As an indie, I don’t have to make amendments to my books unless I want to make the changes. I choose my book covers and my sales blurbs and I decide how my books are marketed and promoted. From 2020, however, my Agency series books are going to be translated into the first of many foreign languages, as I’ve signed with my first traditional publishing house to sell in foreign language markets.
6. Where do you get your ideas or information for your books?
The Agency series sprung up from my past career and Violet is mostly a product of me looking at myself and writing my thoughts down. She’s by far the easiest character to write (Freja is a hundred times harder). I often put moments from my own life into my books, so on the very rare occasion a reader says my stories are a bit on the dramatic side, I have a chuckle because, nope, that shit’s real. 🙂 Violet’s initial story was inspired by my love of a good unrequited romance. Ethan isn’t anything like my husband (for those of you wondering) and he isn’t based on anyone I know – both him and Max are entirely made up. Freja is the character I’d love to be if I wasn’t Violet already (well, I’d still really love to be Freja rather than Violet – who wouldn’t?), and her story arc was inspired by the #metoo movement. I did a lot of research on people like Harvey Weinstein and Brett Kavanaugh for Second Chance as there was just no room for getting any of the emotion or events wrong. It would have been unforgiveable. Second Chance was a very powerful and important story to tell and I hope I did #metoo justice.
7. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote a children’s book called “The Stone-reader” just before my first child was born, so 2008-ish. I was 34. I can promise it will never ever see the light of day. I was 43 when Just Friends was published in 2017.
8. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read. Waste time by playing game apps like Covet Fashion. Waste even more time on Social Media. I maybe only watch four or five hours of TV a week (excluding news channels), and I seem to have a thing for big capitalist TV shows set in the workplace featuring wealthy, attractive and (mostly) awful characters such as Billions, Suits and Succession. See also Dragon’s Den and the Apprentice. There’s a link to be made!
9. What does your family think of your writing?
I am blessed with the most amazingly supportive husband in the world. He doesn’t read my books, but he helps me with the writing-as-a-man stuff when needed. (And is occasionally horrified by the questions I ask him). My kids are all super proud, but obviously the boys are forbidden to read – ever. The girl can read when she’s sixteen, but she’ll probably rather die. Big shout out for my lovely sister-in-law, Andrea, who beta-reads for me and always gives me very good advice.
10. What was one of the most suprising things you learned in creating your books?
How good it feels to just open up a vein and pour all my thoughts, feelings and emotions (even the bad ones) into the heads and mouths of my characters. Writing is great therapy.
11. How many books have your written? Which is your favourite?
So far, five novels (the fifth publishes next month) and two short stories. My favourite is Second Chance because I’m so proud of being able to honour the #metoo movement via a confident, successful and unapologetically ambitious female character.
12. Do you hear from your readers much? What kind of things do they say?
Every other week someone new will contact me. Mostly, they say how much they’ve laughed at my stories and how much they’ve identified with the characters. This makes me a very happy bunny because that’s pretty much my sole aim.
13. What do you think makes a good story?
For me, I like lots of action. I try to weave something really exciting into each chapter that’ll make a reader want to turn the next page. I’ve heard from readers who’ve read one of my entire 90-95k novels in one sitting, which will never stop amazing me. I’ve never come close to reading a book in one sitting, lol. My books are also character led and dialogue heavy. I don’t like reading pages and pages of description, so I don’t write it. My characters’ interactions and relationships with each other are what drives my stories. Finally, the characters have to be relatable and likeable. This means that (sorry sensitive-types) my characters swear, have sex, take drugs, and do what one Mormon reviewer in the States described as “have immoral, hedonistic parties of yuck.” I have that content disclaimer on the blurb for a reason!
14. Which character are you most like?
Violet 84% (all the overthinking, cynicism, foot-in-mouth, coffee-hating stuff); Madeline 10% (the unintentionally-intimidating-other-people stuff); Georgie 5% (oh, god, it’s the over-enthusiasm with Georgie. And the politics); Freja 1% (just a teensy bit of her enviable intuition).
15. Ethan or Nate?
They’re both entirely made up people, but if I were single I’d take either. Or a combo. Ethan’s humour with Nate’s devotion would make the perfect man.
An interview about me:
1. Who is your hero?
When in a mushy mood, I’d say something mushy like my husband. Yeah, that’ll do.
2. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Copenhagen. If I were a city, and not a human, then I’d be Copenhagen.
3. What is your biggest fear?
Death. And elephantiasis of any major body part.
4. What would you change about yourself if you could?
Trying to be a totally evolved woman, so I’ll stay clear of body improv. stuff. I would like to possess the brain chemical that makes people enjoy exercising.
5. What really makes you angry?
I have a lot of rage, so how long have you got? All of the big -isms and -phobias. Brexit and all the blind crazy badness it’s brought to the world. Patriarchy, conformity and inequality. Recently, internalised misogyny has been a button presser for me. That shit is everywhere once you know what and why it exists. Too many women do the textbook opposite of empowering other women. I should write a book on some of this stuff, shouldn’t I?
6. What motivates you to work hard?
Being able to travel. And, um, having money to buy stuff.
7. What is your favourite thing about your career?
I get to create and share something that makes people very happy.
8. What is your favourite family vacation?
Florida every time. Holds so many beautifully precious memories for all of my family, and yes, we’ll keep on going back.
9. What is your biggest complaint about your job?
Isolation. Writing is a lonely occupation. Thank goodness for the friends who live inside my head!
10. What is your proudest accomplishment?
Watching my three children grow into decent, confident tweens (and almost tweens), who are secure in who they are. I guard all of their self-esteems like a fire breathing dragon. I want them to be unbreakable.
11. What is your favourite book?
I’ll give you several. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – it was far beyond it’s time; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – brilliant, unbeatable, nonsensical genius; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – best contemporary romance novel I’ve read in a long time. Read it! I also spend far too long reading and re-reading my own books because I’ve created the perfect books for me. Happily relieved that so many people like the same stories as I do.
12. What makes you laugh most?
My kids. Never a dull moment.
13. What was the last movie you went to see?
The Lion King. Bawled my eyes out.
14. What did you want to be when you were small?
A flight attendant. It appeared glamourous and there was travel. My daughter (age 6) told me on our last holiday that she’d like to be a flight attendant when she grows up, but then she switched to pilot because she figured flying a plane would be more fun than serving drinks. She’s probably right, but by the time she’s a grown-up piloting will probably be little more than button pressing in a fully automated world, so the serving drinks might win out in the end. Who knows!
15. What does your child want to be when s/he grows up?
The 11 year old wants to be a history teacher, the 8 year old wants to be a racing car driver and the 6 year old wants to be a pilot and/or a mum.
16. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
Jobwise? I’d love to get dressed up as Ursula the Sea-witch (or any Disney villain) and frighten the life out of kids at Disneyland. Alternatively, do something wonderful on a stage if I could also borrow some talent for a day too.
17. What is your favourite game or sport to play?
Shopping. Internet shopping.
18. Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse or drive a car?
Car. Least effort.
19. What would you sing at Karaoke night?
I would rather eat a hedgehog sandwich than do Karaoke.
20. What radio station do you listen to in the car the most?
Sun FM. Don’t listen to anything else really.
21. Which would you rather do: wash dishes, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom or vacuum the house?
Washing dishes. Easy.
22. If you could hire someone to help you would it be cleaning, cooking or gardening?
Cleaning. Already have a cleaner who I love more than my most beloved family member.
23. If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
At the moment I’m all about the falafel and hummous. This might be a bit too vegan, so hoy a bag of pork scratchings on the side for balance.
24. Have you ever had a nickname? What is it?
Every connotation of “Elizabeth” you can think of. Husband calls me “Lizza”, which is canny unique.
25. Who would you want to be stranded with on a desert island?
Huge Jackman. Not a typo.
26. What is the best gift you’ve ever been given?
My Kindle Paperwhite.
27. What is the worst gift you have received?
All the coffee cups I’ve accumulated whilst never drinking coffee (or tea) in my life.
28. If you were a superhero, what powers would you have?
Ah, I think about this a lot. As an outspoken, opinionated type, I would have the power to make everybody believe everything I say and obey my every word. These might be Super-villain powers, not superhero powers.
29. What’s the tallest building you’ve been to the top of?
The CN Tower in Toronto.
30. What’s your favourite foreign cuisine?
31. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
Eva Green. Or Vivien Leigh. Not happening.
32. What’s you favourite fast food chain?
Chopstix noodle bar. I’ve only found them in motorway service stations.
33. What’s your favourite movie?
Gone with the Wind.
34. What was your favourite subject in school.
35. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
A hollowed out spider coated in chocolate.
36. Do you collect anything?
Fridge magnets and paper doll books.
37. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
I am the most introverted of extroverts. So says my Myers-Briggs profile. This means I switch between the two but tend to be more extroverted.
38. What is the theme song of your life?
Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morrissette.
39. On a scale of 1-10 how funny would you say you are?
An eight. I laugh at my own jokes far too much, but there are funnier people out there.
40. How many languages do you speak?
English and a splattering of French. My French used to be better and one of my biggest regrets is losing it due to not using it.
Elizabeth’s Favourite Quotes:
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” – Harper Lee
“In this life, people will love you and people will hate you and none of that will have anything to do with you.” – Abraham Hicks
“Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss
“I am no bird and no net ensnares me. I am a free human being with an independent will.” – Charlotte Bronte
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa M. Alcott